June 22, 2024

An Approach to the Rehabilitation of Kogia spp.


Charles A. Manire, Howard L. Rhinehart, Nélio B. Barros, Lynne Byrd, and Petra Cunningham-Smith


Abstract: Pygmy (Kogia breviceps) and dwarf (K. sima) sperm whales are rarely seen in the wild, but often seem to live-strand, particularly in cow-calf pairs. The rehabilitation of live-stranded individuals of both species has proven to be exceedingly difficult. The few released animals might not have been completely healthy, an alternative chosen due to their poor survival in captivity. The rehabilitation challenges for Kogia are numerous because limited knowledge exists regarding even the basic biology of both species. This report provides information derived from the rehabilitation of 13 live-stranded K. breviceps and K. sima (including five calves) over the last decade at the Dolphin and Whale Hospital at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida. One K. breviceps calf survived for almost 21 months in captivity and one K. sima survived for over 15 months, both apparent worldwide records. From these cases we learned that it is critical to provide supplemental fluids in addition to solid food to maintain continuous activity of the intestinal tract, especially if maintained in chlorinetreated water, and that digestibility of squid species typically fed to captive marine mammals was poor. Both species appear to be susceptible to adverse reactions to a number of the drugs commonly used during rehabilitation. In addition, an artificial calf formula was developed to provide adequate nutrition for young calves. Finally, gastric and intestinal stasis appears to lead to death in many of these whales in captivity.

Key Words: Rehabilitation, pygmy sperm whale, dwarf sperm whale, calf formula, orphan calves, survival, captivity, Kogia breviceps, Kogia sima

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.30.2.2004.257

Page Numbers: 257-270

Info SKU: Vol__30__Iss__2__Manire_et_al Category: